In May, 28 months after first applying to the council as needing housing rather urgently, I was accepted onto their Homefinders scheme. This is where private landlords list their properties and us lucky property seekers can then bid for the right to rent them. Applicants are placed in the queue based on their assessed needs and urgency to move.
So far so simple.
Except not. In March I found out I had been placed in Housing Group 3 – extra health and wellbeing needs – which sounded accurate on the surface, until I learned that Group 5 was the group for those who need wheelchair accessible properties. My advocate and I queried this, as I rarely go anywhere without my powerchair and absolutely need it for independent living, but were told that Group 5 was only for wheelchair users that need to use their wheelchairs inside their homes as well as outside. Fair, I do not need to do that at this point as long as I can have reasonable adaptations made. But this left us with an issue – does Group 3 ever get offered wheelchair accessible properties? We asked the council multiple times in emails, going as far as to request a face to face meeting so I could get a straight answer, but no joy. We were also told that there were many other applicants in the group, and my chances of getting anything via the council were so slim that I should continue to look privately or consider a low cost homeowners scheme (hello, where is the bank that will give a mortgage to someone existing solely on disability benefits?).
So as well as frustrating myself to tears looking through property sites for accessible and affordable flats (as I have been doing since early 2017), since May I’ve been logging onto the Homefinders site weekly to see what’s listed as available for me to bid on. I’ve never seen more than 4 available in my strict category (1 occupant, 1 bedroom) in one week, and to answer my own question to the council it seems that wheelchair accessible properties offered to Group 3 are sparse. I’ve seen one so far, and it was on the ninth floor of a tower block far enough removed from public transport that even the site listed it as such. Even yesterday, a friend alerted me to a property listed that had a “roll in shower” so must be wheelchair friendly? Nope – third floor, no lift. We’re going to try and push again for that data on accessible properties, or a face to face meeting.
What else in the meantime? I’ve applied to two different specialist housing organisations in the last couple of weeks, although I’ve not even had an acknowledgment of application from either of them, and since posting a desperate tweet to find any other links/HAs/charities/flats for rent I’ve got a couple more to try.
It’s hard keeping my head above water right now. I can be in a perfectly good mood then think too much about housing and start going under. I tried to access private therapy to deal with the trauma around housing and homelessness from my previous experiences, but something got in the way – lack of wheelchair accessible therapists. The irony is not lost on me. I’m even considering reapplying to my local CMHT for help, but I’m not sure I’ll be accepted since in November they kicked me off the therapy program I was on because my housing issues were monopolising my thoughts and causing more acute mental health issues, distracting from the longstanding ones the program was designed for. If I don’t laugh I’ll scream
And that’s where I’m at now. I know I’ve been crap at updating this, it’s hard to pull the brainkittens together to write something longer than a tweet – see last post – but I’m trying to write it out more. It makes me feel less lost and confused, writing it all down as a record of what happened too. I’ll do a medical update one at some point, but it seems less urgent.
Thanks to everyone who’s retweeted my plea – so far 674 of you! Please keep it going, any advice, any ideas are appreciated. Even if it doesn’t get me a property to rent, I hope that it wakes people up to the appalling lack of wheelchair accessible properties in this country.